There has been a lot in the news about how social media has a negative effect on mental health and it has even been blamed for the suicide of a 14 year old girl (check out the story here). However I personally don’t feel that social media is being given a fair trial and is not to blame, at least not solely.
There are many other things that have helped cause the increase in mental illnesses among young people. These are things that seem to have been overlooked in place of blaming social media outright. Social media feels like a lazy excuse for the ever-growing problem of mental illness among young people.
One major reason for the increase in suicide rates among teenagers (for statistics look here) is that they are unable to access the mental health care they desperately need. Waiting times have increased for therapy, if teenagers even get as far as being referred for it in the first place. There seems to have been a shift in what children will be accepted for treatment by CAMHs (Child and Adolescent Mental Health services) meaning that many slip through the net. Why is this the case? Put simply it is a lack of funding for mental health services as a whole.
Having a lack of CAMHs services also means that children and young people are having to get worse before they are considered for care. This means they’re in a worst place to start with when early intervention could stop them reaching crisis point. This could shorten the length of time they need support or lower the intensity of the support they require as well as preventing serious self harm and suicide.
Another reason for the rise in the number of suicides among young people, in my opinion, is the school system and the constant criticism that it brings. Everyone says that things are easier for young people these days and that the education system is too easy. For someone going through the system and hearing this makes you feel like a failure especially if you are struggling. This isn’t helped by the pressure from teachers. This isn’t the fault of the teachers. They themselves are under huge pressure to get results and meet targets, so obviously the pressure gets passed on to the students.
I’m not saying here that social media has no part in the rising tide of suicides among young people. Obviously with cyber bullying there is not the escape from bullies that you would get in previous generations. It is constant. But blaming the images of self harm and suicide quotes on Instagram I feel is taking the blame too far. There must be something wrong before they see the images to make them go looking for these images. Also these images are available on the Internet via a Google search not just social media.
Social media also has some positive effects on mental health. There is a very supportive community on the different social media platforms. There is also advice and information about different mental illnesses available via social media. Also it can help those struggling feel less alone and can encourage them to talk and get help.
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